The first English translation of The Odysseia (or Odyssey) appeared around the year 1615. After several centuries and 60-odd English translations of the ancient Hellenic epic, Emily Wilson has made history as the first woman to ever tell the story of Odysseus and his arduous journey home in the English language. Her translation is apparently "lyrical, radically readable, and as politically relevant as ever."


Composed around the 8th century BC, the Odysseia is one of the oldest works of literature and tells the story of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, as he tries to make his way home from the battlefields of the Trojan war. As a woman, Wilson believes she comes to the Odyssey with a different perspective than translators who have gone before her. In a recent essay at the Guardian she said:

"Female translators often stand at a critical distance when approaching authors who are not only male, but also deeply embedded in a canon that has for many centuries been imagined as belonging to men."

She called translating Homer as a woman an experience of “intimate alienation.” She calls herself uncomfortable with the text and part of her goal with the translation was to make readers uncomfortable too — with the fact that Odysseus owns slaves, and with the inequities in his marriage to Penelope. Making these aspects of the poem visible, rather than glossing over them makes it a more interesting text, according to Wilson. Wilson chose to use plain, relatively contemporary language in part to invite readers to respond more actively with the text.

"Impressive displays of rhetoric and linguistic force are a good way to seem important and invite a particular kind of admiration, but they tend to silence dissent and discourage deeper modes of engagement. There’s an idea that Homer has to sound heroic and ancient, but that idea comes with a value system attached, one that includes endorsing this very hierarchical kind of society as if that’s what heroism is."

While Wilson’s language is often plain, it’s also carefully chosen. The slaves in older translations of the Odysseia are often not identified as slaves at all. Wilson, by contrast, uses the word “slave.”

“It sort of stuns me when I look at other translations how much work seems to go into making slavery invisible. The need to acknowledge the fact and the horror of slavery, and to mark the fact that the idealized society depicted in the poem is one where slavery is shockingly taken for granted, seems to me to outweigh the need to specify, in every instance, the type of slave.”

Recent events have led to a widespread debate over how audiences should consume the work of people we know to be abusers of women. This is intertwined with the question of how we should consume art that has racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted elements. Wilson’s translation is not a feminist version of the Odysseia. It is a version of the Odysseia that lays bare the morals of its time and place, and invites us to consider how different they are from our own, and how similar.

"Part of fighting misogyny in the current world is having a really clear sense of what the structures of thought and the structures of society are that have enabled androcentrism in different cultures, including our own. The Odyssey, looked at in the right way, can help readers understand those structures more clearly. It offers a defense of a male dominant society, a defense of its own hero and his triumph over everybody else, but it also seems to provide these avenues for realizing what’s so horrible about this narrative, what’s missing about this narrative."

Wilson, a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, has also translated plays by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides and the Roman philosopher Seneca. An excerpt ran in the summer 2017 issue of the Paris Review.

I have not read the translation yet. I plan to, if only to see if my initial dislike after reading the full article will lessen if I do. Wilson is a professor of classical studies. I have to assume she isn't as clueless as to regard slavery in ancient Hellas in the same light as, say, slavery in the 18th and 19th century. I have written a long blog post about this and I won't go into it again, but her words irk me. The same is true when she speaks of Penelope, Odysseus' wife. The article states:

"Penelope is a frustrating character — it’s not entirely clear why she doesn’t simply send the suitors away or marry one of them, and the poem offers limited access to her thoughts and feelings. Wilson didn’t try to make Penelope easier to understand — “the opacity of Penelope,” as she puts it, is one of the aspects of the poem she wants to trouble readers and make them uncomfortable."

I have also written a long blog post about marriage in ancient Hellas and the roll of women in it. Penelope belongs to Odysseus. Until he either comes back or is confirmed dead, she is stuck in the limbo of a marriage to a missing husband. She cannot marry another man and as a woman in her husband's house, she cannot send these men away because of the commitment of xenia. This is basic understanding of the ancient Hellenic culture and I can't imagine Wilson doesn't know this. So why is Penelope's behavior uncomfortable to her (and why should it be to anyone else)?

I will withhold judgement until after I have read the translation. Has anyone read it? If so, could they tell me their thoughts? I'd be very interested in hearing it!
A team of archaeologists led by Francesco D' Andria has discovered the altar of the temple of Athena in the town of Castro in the province of Lecce in the Apulia (Puglia) region of south-eastern Italy. The Castro altar is similar to those found in Metaponto, a Lucanian city which has been the subject of systematic excavation campaigns which revealed the famous Hellenic temples and their altars in front of them. However, the Messapic altars were simple pits dug in the earth where the libations were burned and offered, whereas the one at Castro is a built altar not unlike like those of the Hellenistic (eg. Altar of Pergamon) and Roman (eg. Ara Pacis) periods.

Credit: Quotidiano di Puglia

The structure consists of well worked square blocks at least 6 metres long and two and a half metres wide and has yielded an impressive series of finds linked to the ritual sacrifices made to the goddess: bones of sacrificed animals and other objects which bear witness to the daily life in the sanctuary.
The castle of the Adriatic town has been the focus of successive excavation campaigns since the year 2000, which, in addition to the Messapic fortifications dating back to the fourth century, have now also identified the Sanctuary of Athena (Minerva) from which the ancient city received its name, Castrum Minervae.

The temple was said to have been founded by Idomeneus, who formed the tribe of the Sallentini from a mixture of Cretans, Illyrians and Italian Locrians (Central Hellenic tribe). It is known that this is the same temple dedicated to Athena Iliaca, the Trojan Athena, which Virgil mentions in the 3rd Book of the Aeneid when he talks about the arrival of Aeneas and his ships on the coasts of Italy.

The altar dates back to the second half of the fourth century BC and is contemporaneous to the cult statue of the goddess, found in 2015, and another small bronze statue found a few years earlier, both of which depict Trojan Athena, who wears a Phrygian helmet, as further proof of the connections of Castrum Minervae with the Aeneas myth.

The collection of finds, preserved in the Museum inaugurated in 2016 and housed inside the Castle, is now enriched with other important elements found in this season's excavations, including a beautiful bronze mask, of Tarentine style, also from the fourth century BC, which is perhaps a female figure with some sort of knot in her hair. It was probably a votive offering made to the divinity, as were also two terracotta heads, probably belonging to two female divinities, which were found just yesterday.
Only two of the six metres long altar have been excavated because the most of it is located under the road surface and in an adjacent plot of land, where - D' Andria is sure - lies the temple itself, which, in Greek worship, stood behind the enclosure where sacrifices were made.

D' Andria now faces the challenge of raising funds for the expropriation or purchase of those 300 square metres of private property, so that another excavation campaign can be carried out to unearth the foundations, perimeter and other elements of the sanctuary.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

Changes to the blog:
  • Okay, I have to squeal a bit: I've hit a million views, which is pretty cool!
Statistics:
PAT rituals for Poseideon:
Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.
A joint team of German and Egyptian archaeologists working at the Watfa site in Egypt's Fayoum province discovered an ancient gym that dates back to the Hellenistic period. According to Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, the gymnasium has a large hall for meetings that was once decorated with statues, a dining hall and a courtyard. Next to the gym is a 200-meter track. Researchers also found out that gardens had surrounded the building to complete an ideal layout of a center of Hellenic learning.


The site dates to a time when Egypt was ruled by Greeks after being conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Per Cornelia Römer, the leader of the team from the German Archaeological Institute, ancient Hellenic gyms such as the newly discovered gymnasium were typically private foundations by rich people who wanted their villages to become even more Hellenic in aspect.

​"The young men of the Greek-speaking upper class were trained in sports, learned to read and to write, and to enjoy philosophical discussions. All big cities of the Hellenistic world like Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompei in Italy had such gymnasia. The gymnasia in the Egyptian countryside were built after their pattern; although much smaller, the gymnasion of Watfa clearly shows the impact of Hellenic life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside."

The experts estimate that when the village was first built all those years ago it housed a total of 1,200 inhabitants. Two-thirds are thought to have been Egyptian while the other third were Greek-speaking settlers. The gymnasium, roughly 50 miles from Cairo, sits inside the ancient village of Philoteris, according to a Facebook post from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. The post also indicates that the village, founded by King Ptolemy II in the third century BC, was named after his second sister Philotera.

This find is just the latest in a series of discoveries made by archaeologists in Egypt. Just last week another international team of researchers announced they'd discovered a "big void" inside Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza. The German team, surveying and excavating at the Watfa site since 2010, has been working alongside the Ain Shams University.
"Khaire Elani, what are some of the ways you've explored your faith? I'm not adverse to academia, but from what you have shared, I feel that there is something inward informing your everyday experience.  A personal gnosis?"

I put a lot of stock in the Hellenic ancient sources, scattered as they may be, because while these were the accounts of one man or one woman, they were copied repeatedly, used in religious settings by many, and traveled the whole of Hellas. These weren't documents stuffed away in some guy's drawer that happened to be preserved for 2000 years; these were copied, copied, and copied again, and one of these many copies has survived to the present day (generalizing, of course). Luck of the draw. As such, we can assume that some of the documents (say, for example, the Orphic hymns) were read and repeated by many, and that is what makes them valuable. Homeros was a best-seller of his time, and that is why we still have access to his writings. People must have identified with what they read, or they would not have read it and carried it on. These sources are our primary resource for information about the Theoi and how to worship Them, but sometimes we also learn about Them through our own experiences. This is called 'Unverified Personal Gnosis' (or UPG, for short).

Ideally the term is used to label one's own experience as a new and untested hypothesis, although further verification from other practitioners or ancient sources may lead to a certain degree of verifiability. Personally, I try to go from Unverified Personal Gnosis to Shared Personal Gnosis to Confirmed (Personal) Gnosis. This is why the Hellenistic community in general is open to the sharing of UPG--generalizing here--because others may have had the same experience (which lends credibility to the experience) or references to source material with which the UPG can be confirmed. There is a certain degree of science about it, when viewed like this, but it requires the receiver of the UPG to be open about his or her experiences and accept the fact that this hypothesis may be false, or at the very least unverifiable. If this is the case, using the UPG for your personal practice is fine, but doling it out as the Holy Word and Ultimate Truth will not get you far.

I have a love/hate relationship with Unverified Personal Gnosis. On the one hand, I believe, with every fiber of my being, in the knowledge I have been made privy to by the Gods. I believe in my experiences and they are sacred to me. They run anywhere from synchronicious events to detailed biographies and some of them I will never share with anyone, they were that special. Throughout my practice, I have allowed UGP to push me forward in my path. Much of what I know, have done, or now practice is directly related to a UPG event, this blog included.

Without my UPG experiences, I feel I might have doubted the existence of the Gods much more than I do. I know They exist, because They have influenced my life and that of those I love on many occasions. The experiences I have had have been extremely humbling and they have shaped me. I don't actively seek out this type of gnosis--my practice relies almost solely on academic sources, which is how I like it. My UPG experience are only part of my practice in so far that they have instilled in me a deep love and respect for the Gods that is unwavering and life-long.
Remember when I posted about the possible foods and entertainment at a Hellenic banquet? Guess what I stumbled upon today: Louis Chrysostomou, spoke to Greek newspaper Ta Nea about his ambitious project to introduce ancient Hellenic cuisine to London’s multinational population, at Life Goddess restaurant.


Chrysostomou has 17 years of experience as a chef in Greece and Britain. He is the head chef of the Greek Embassy in London, and owner of Lamda Delta Catering and Events.cWith the project "Secrets and Flavors from Ancient Greece," the Greek chef hopes to introduce the unique tastes not only to the thousands of Greeks living in the British capital, but also to the British and other nationals.

"Our goal is to present to the British public the Greek cuisine in its entirety, starting from Ancient Greece and its nutritional secrets. This is a vision that finally becomes reality. It is the product of an exhaustive study of prescriptions and sources of nutrition in ancient Greece, starting with the texts of Archestratos and Athineos."

Chrysostomou admits that there is no way of knowing how these dishes tasted thousands of years ago, but the ingredients are known:

"The truth is that we can not know how the food that ancient Greeks ate tasted. However, we use exactly the same ingredients that they chose to make up their meals."

These dishes include the famous “black broth” that the ancient Spartans ate, “mypotos” (a kind of spinach pie) and “melicraton” (a sweet with nuts, honey, and pollen) and are some of the dishes that will be served during theme gastronomic nights that aspire to be a transformation of the ancient Greek symposiums.

After the “Ancient Greek dinners”, other themes will be presented, such as the Pythagorean diet (vegetarian oriented), the Hippocratic diet (prevention and treatment of diseases through food) and evenings dedicated to the local cuisines of Greece (Macedonia, Thrace, Peloponnese etc).

I know the ingredients for the ancient Spartan melas zomos (μέλας ζωμός), or black soup / black broth: it was a staple soup made of boiled pigs' legs, blood, salt and vinegar. It is thought that the vinegar was used as an emulsifier to keep the blood from clotting during the cooking process. The armies of Sparta mainly ate this. It was not a delicacy, but used for sustenance and strength. I'd be very interested in trying this and the other dishes!
As part of a new 5-year program, a team from the French School at Athens under the direction of Florence Gaignerot-Driessen carried out excavations this summer on the Anavlochos massif (Vrachasi, Lasithi, Crete). Two areas on the western part of the summit, located by the team during the 2015-2016 survey of the massif, have yielded a large amount of votive material.


In the first one, 350 figurines, figures, and plaques have been recovered, representing female figures mostly dating to the Archaic and Classical periods. The second deposit, located 200 m to the east, contained zoomorphic figures and figurines associated with Late Minoan IIIC pottery. In the cemetery area, located at the foot of the massif, several groups of graves have been recognized.

The excavation of one of them yielded circular burial enclosures with platforms, from on top of which large Late Geometric vases have been recovered. Finally, on the so-called 'Kako Plaï' slope, which overlooks the cemetery, a bench building containing Protogeometric to Archaic votive material has been excavated.

It is located above trenches opened by Pierre Demargne in 1929, where Geometric to Classical votive material was found and which were reidentified during the 2015-2016 survey.

For more information see the Anavlochos Project website:
For more images, go here.
Pliny the Younger was born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo. He lived from 61 to 113 AD. Pliny was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, of which 247 survive and are of great historical value. I wanted to share one of those today, even though it's a Roman piece of writing. Based on what we know of ancient Hellenic food habits, what follows could very well be accurate for Hellenic times as well, which is why I enjoy finding (or rediscovering) passages like this.

This letter is directed at a man called Septimius Clarus, who was supposed to show up for dinner but didn't. What follows is a summation of everything that was served during and organized for the banquette.

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me.

You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”
By 2050, according to a study presented on 8 November at an event organized by MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos (S&D) and the IUCN European Regional Office in Brussels, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish and 99% of seabirds will ingest plastic as well as 52% of sea turtles. In Europe specifically, 100,000 tons of waste are discharged into the seas. The majority of plastic waste is disposable and consists of: 2.5 billion food packages, 580 billion cigarette butts, 16 billion plastic cups, 36.4 billion drinking straws and 46 billion plastic bottles! But there are lessons to take from Ancient Hellas.

greek-800x450

Jacques Yves Cousteau’s son, Pierre Yves, has presented important facts about the state of the oceans today: 70% of the plastic remains at the bottom of the ocean, 15% floats, while the remaining 15% is in the water column between the surface and the bottom. The Guardian, has revealed that 80% of drinking water in Europe contains microplastics.

“During my last visit to Santorini, I visited the archaeological site in Akrotiri. I was impressed by the way the Ancient Greeks stored in their jars the olive oil and the wine. I think we can take lessons from this. The problem we are facing today is something that has been the main concern of all the great civilisations in the past: the production, storage and shipping of goods. During the last century, the way we chose to do it was not sustainable.”

The UN’s representative for the environment in Brussels, Ulf Björnholm, proposed the following:

“We need regulations, economic incentives and voluntary action. It is also necessary to promote the circular economy. We should reduce the production of both disposable and non-recycled plastics, for example in cosmetics and cars"

On 6-7 December, the UN is organizing a world conference entitled "Towards a pollution-free planet," while an information campaign has already been launched, inviting governments, companies and civil society to take part in the initiative and take local action.

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart and outside of contributing to Pandora's Kharis, this is where most of my giving goes to. The ancient Hellenes didn't care about the environment like we care about the environment, but they didn't have to. They hadn't polluted the earth like we have. I'm shoehorning this issue into my blog because this is something I care greatly about and changing perception and behavior matters. We are not killing the planet, we are killing ourselves and millions of animals by living in a society that is build on profit, not sustainability, and there are definitely lessons to take from ancient Hellas in that regard.
Two days ago, we brought home a tiny chap who's already bought us a lot of joy. He's a half Persian, half Norwegian Forest Cat mix who's been severely neglected by his previous owners, so he's very thin and his fur is badly maintained. He is very bright, though, and very, very sweet. Having him in the home has been an absolute joy and he's very much settled in already. So, this post is for Hugo (or Oscar, if my girl has her way).



As you are probably all well aware, the ancient Egyptians were big fans of cats, and one of their main Goddesses, Bastet, Goddess of protection and motherhood, carried the head of one. Alexandria had a temple to Bastet, for example, so the ancient Hellenes would have come in contact with Her. Most likely not everyone, but at least a few of the ancient Hellenes would have equated Bastet with Artemis--especially in Late Antiquity. Bast was a lioness Goddess of the sun throughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later she was changed into the cat Goddess Bastet. She also was changed to a Goddess of the moon by Hellenes occupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Hellenic mythology, Bast also is known as Ailuros. Hyginus, for example, in his 2nd century AD 'Astronomica' writes:

"Egyptian priests and some poets say that once when many gods had assembled in Egypt, suddenly Typhon, an exceedingly fierce monster and deadly enemy of the gods, came to that place. Terrified by him, they changed their shapes into other forms: Mercurius [Hermes] became an ibis [the god Thoth], Apollo [Apollon], the bird that is called Thracian [the god Horus], Diana [Artemis], a cat [the goddess Bastet]. For this reason they say the Egyptians do not permit these creatures to be injured, because they are called representations of gods." [2.28]

You can read more about this bit of mythology here.

Returning to ancient Hellas--and not so much the Roman era--the question of the cat as a pet in ancient Hellas is rather vexing. Modern Athens is home to countless feral cats, however, the status of the cat in ancient Hellas is unclear, as images of cats are fairly rare. This is obviously a sign that even if there is a God or Goddess of cats in the ancient Hellenic pantheon cats are most likely a side-line.

Cats were probably kept by Hellenic households as liminal animals--animals who were free to come and go as they pleased, roaming houses and streets alike. This may account for the fact that few cat bones have been found in domestic situations. Historically, the main reason to keep cats is to get rid of mice, only in ancient Hellas the job of 'mouser' seems to have been handled by weasels and ferrets, many of which were also considered liminal pets. Yet some clear representations of cats do exist, primarily on funeral stele. These show caps on leashes, or being shown off as prized possessions, so we do know that some cats were updated to the status of 'pet'. The comic playwright Aristophanes liked to include cats in his productions and often used the phrase 'the cat did it' for comic effect, as cats were blamed for things breaking in the household.

So there isn't a God or Goddess of cats, but there is a Goddess associated with cats: Hekate. There is one single piece of mythology I have to base this on: the myth of Galinthias, the nurse of Alkmene, transformed by the angry Eileithyia, but received by Hekate as her animal. Again, I have only late sources, second century AD again, although this time recorded by Antoninus Liberalis in his 'Metamorphoses':

"At Thebes Proitos had a daughter Galinthias. This maiden was playmate and companion of Alkmene, daughter of Elektryon. As the birth throes for Herakles were pressing on Alkmene, the Moirai (Fates) and Eileithyia (Birth-Goddess), as a favour to Hera, kept Alkmene in continuous birth pangs. They remained seated, each keeping their arms crossed. Galinthias, fearing that the pains of her labour would drive Alkmene mad, ran to the Moirai and Eleithyia and announced that by desire of Zeus a boy had been born to Alkmene and that their prerogatives had been abolished.

At all this, consternation of course overcame the Moirai and they immediately let go their arms. Alkmene’s pangs ceased at once and Herakles was born. The Moirai were aggrieved at this and took away the womanly parts of Galinthias since, being but a mortal, she had deceived the gods. They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself." [29]

Whatever the case, our cat is definitely part of our oikos, and I couldn't be happier to welcome him.
A unique bronze helmet discovered in the deep by marine archaeologists off the Sicilian coast, which they have dated to a sea battle of 241 B.C.E. may have been a precursor of the lion-themed helmets used by Rome's Praetorian Guards, the personal bodyguards of the Roman emperors.        


Recovered from the site of the Battle of the Egadi Islands (Aegadian islands), northwest of Sicily, the helmet is a Montefortino, a Celtic style-helmet that had been worn across Europe, also popularly known as a "Roman helmet". These are easily identified: they look like half a watermelon with a knob on top and cheek flaps down the sides that tie at the chin. However, the newly discovered helmet has a unique feature: what appears to be a relief of a lion's skin embracing the central cone adorning its peak. Only one Montefortino helmet is known to have a relief on top, that appears to show a stylized bird.

The helmet's dating is based, among other things, on pottery jars and other debris discovered on the sea floor at the site. It was heavily encrusted after more than 2,000 years under the Mediterranean Sea and is undergoing cleaning and conservation that the archaeologists hope will reveal more details.
Other helmets discovered at the same site bore what appears to be Punic lettering engraved into the crest knob. The helmets could be a Libyan-Phoenician type, or worn by Greek mercenaries in Carthaginian employ, Royal suggests.

The find is the latest in a string of discoveries made this year using unmanned submersibles as well as divers that have changed our understanding of naval tactics during the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.E.) , which knocked out Carthage, and made Rome lords of the sea. Diving at depths as deep as 120 meters, the marine archaeologists are surveying an area of about five square kilometers, littered with the relics of this decisive war.

For much more information about the battle and finds, go here.
I've been thinking about the bonds of family a lot lately. Not surprisingly, considering the circumstances, I suppose. I've found myself inexplicably drawn to Artemis, and I have spent more time sacrificing and praising Her in my daily prayer rituals than I usually would. I suppose I've never truly considered how great an influence She has on my life as a Goddess of women and the patron of the transition from girlhood into womanhood.

I have considered myself a woman for many years. I have made conscious efforts to correct people who would call me a "girl" for just about as many, both out of a sense of feminism and honest belief that I was an adult woman and knew what came with that title. I think I am currently realizing that there is more to adulthood than just moving out of the home of your parents, especially if it's a toxic environment to be in. You carry the roll of "child" with you for a long time and I doubt you ever truly shake it, but I'm coming to find that letting go of some of the ties that bind is a process that takes part in stages. I have reached a new one, and I naturally reach out to Artemis for comfort.

In ancient Hellas, a girl's coming of age ceremony was linked to her wedding day. As soon as she got married, she would move out, into her new husband's oikos, and commit to the task she was born to fulfill: gift her husband legitimate offspring--boys, preferably. It won't come as a surprise that in preparation for this entirely new role in life, a girl's coming of age ceremony was focussed almost entirely on ending her own childhood, and petitioning the Gods for help in her life as an adult. As such, fertility and womanhood were big parts of the rituals.

Young girls rarely had a role to play in household worship. The family only had them with them for thirteen to fifteen years, on average, after that, she joined her rightful place at the oikos of her husband, where she carried more (religious) responsibility. There were religious roles young girls could fulfill outside of the home, however, most notably as 'Arrephoros' (Ἀρρήφορος)--year long handmaidens of Athena Polias (Πολιάς)--in Athens, and as 'Arktos' (αρκτος), bear, a service in the following of Artemis Brauronia (Βραυρωνια) at Brauron (Βραυρών).

During the Arkteia festival, celebrated every four or five years alongside--or as a part of--the Brauronia, named and in honor of the epithet of Artemis. Every Athenian girl, as well as many other girls from all over Attika, had to take part of the festival before they could marry. The girls were brought to Brauron, a temple of Artemis with a rich history in both myth and history. Some versions of the myth of Iphigeneia have her taken from the sacrifice and dropped in Brauronia, where she established a temple to the Goddess in gratitude. Otherwise, an oracle might have told the ancient Hellenes to build a temple to the Goddess at Brauron after a terrible plague or famine plagued the land following the killing of a bear by two hunters.

The symbolism of the bear might refer to the bear which was slain by the hunters, or the clothes Iphigeneia might have left at her 'sacrifice'. It's also possible that the bear reference refers to Kallisto, who was transformed into a bear by the Goddess.

During the festival young girls, and it seems that on occasion young boys, would gather to celebrate Artemis Brauronia with races, and dances. They would don bear masks and dance a dance known as the 'Arkteia', which was made up of slow, solemn steps meant to imitate the movements of a bear and was performed to a tune from a diaulos (double flute). They might have carried baskets of figs. Up until as far back as the 5th century, the girls might have worn actual bear skins, but bears soon became scarce, so they wore yellow dresses called 'krokoton', which they 'shed' instead of the skins to signal their coming adulthood.

The actual reason for the 'bear' ritual has been lost. It's possible that the ritual served to exorcise 'the wildness' out of little girls, but it's more likely that it was simply a way to procure kharis for the young girls who would soon call on Artemis during childbirth. In the same spirit, young women on the threshold of marriage made an offering to Artemis of their childhood toys and other paraphernalia that represented childhood, as with an offering of one drachma (roughly $ 60,-) at the temple of Aphrodite. Most likely, the bride also honored Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleios in some way.

A young woman came of age during her wedding and the subsequent wedding night, but became a woman when she gave birth for the first time. Especially during the latter, they desperately needed the support of the Goddess Artemis. Aphrodite and Hera Teleia would support her through her marriage, and help her make it a success. With the help of the Gods, a girl could become a woman.

I am not a mother. I don't know if I will ever become one either. I am also not married, but I have been with my girlfriend for thirteen years, and we've lived together for eleven. I consider myself married in the eyes of the Gods. I present myself as a woman, but I am in need of a new Arkteia, of a new blessing from Artemis Brauronia in order to break more chains that shackle me to the past. I suppose that is going to be a focal point of my worship for a while.
The cremation on Tuesday was hard to get through but very beautiful and fulfilling. It was as you hope a farewell goes. I won't go into detail, but anyone who had been to a cremation or funeral knows how these things go.

I haven't worshipped since Monday last week, when I first heard about the death of my girlfriend's (and my, really) grandmother. Death, after all, is miasmic. Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. After a lot of research into the workings of miasma, I have come to the conclusion that true, practice stopping, miasma is linked to distraction. Anything that takes your mind off of the Gods during ritual can be considered miasmic. Death, through grief, is therefore especially miasmic.

With the cremation came a conclusion to the source of miasma, so to speak, as it offers closure. Yesterday, I prepared to resume worship.

First, I vacuumed and cleaned the space my altar is in. I opened the windows and let fresh air in. Then I took a long, hot shower and scrubbed every inch of me. After dressing in clean clothes and doing my hair up, I uncovered my altar and shrines. It's a practice I have adapted from ancient Hellas; the ancient Hellenes didn't cover their shrines in the face of miasmic events, but for the final two days of the Anthesteria, all temples were closed besides the one of Dionysos to prevent them from becoming tainted by the underworld influences of the festival. Covering my shrines is the closest I can get to replicating that experience and I do it when someone close to me dies, for example, until I can purify myself. With my shrines uncovered, I cleaned those as well, like I would on Noumenia. With everything shiny and fresh, I was ready to do my morning rites.

I didn't perform a special rite to "re-introduce" myself to the Gods. At the risk of alienating anyone--I don't believe you have to. I also don't believe you have to introduce yourself to the Theoi when you start worshipping Them or say goodbye to Them when you stop. We are below the Gods.
 From that linked post:

Having an almost personal, loving, and safe relationship with the Gods is a modern invention. It came to a rise with the revival of Paganism in the form of Wicca and Witchcraft. It makes absolutely no sense in an Hellenistic context because it goes against the hierarchy: Gods, then humans, then animals. As humans, we tend to reason from ourselves outwards, which basically would make the hierarchy: humans, Gods/animals. That's hubris. That's the opposite of piety. Piety, in large part, is accepting that we, as humans, are not at the top of this chain and that the Gods look at us like we look at animals: cute, but expendable once their purpose is served. It's a hard truth to face, and I get a lot of backlash for putting it out there, but that's the way the ancient Hellenes viewed their Gods, and it's how I view Them as well.

The Gods don't care that I didn't worship Them for a week. I do think They would have minded if I'd half-assed Their worship because I was grieving my grandmother who meant so much to me. They are above me, They deserve proper worship. Today, I was able to give Them that again. I took a lot of comfort from that.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has reached out to me in this past week with condolences and support. It has meant a lot in a very trying and difficult time. May the Gods bless you greatly!
In the more than two years since University of Cincinnati researchers unearthed the 3,500-year-old tomb of a Bronze Age warrior in southwest Greece, an incredible trove of riches has emerged, including four gold signet rings that have challenged accepted wisdom among archaeologists about the origins of Greek civilization. But that wasn't the only secret hidden there beneath the hard-baked clay.  It would take another year before the so-called "Griffin Warrior" revealed his most stunning historical offering yet: an intricately carved gem, or sealstone, that UC researchers say is one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered.

Credit: University of Cincinnati


The "Pylos Combat Agate," as the seal has come to be known for the fierce hand-to-hand battle it portrays, promises not only to rewrite the history of ancient Hellenic art, but to help shed light on myth and legend in an era of Western civilization still steeped in mystery.

The seal is the latest and most significant treasure to emerge from the treasure-laden tomb of the Griffin Warrior, which was hailed as the most spectacular archaeological discovery in Greece in more than half a century when it was uncovered in an olive grove near the ancient city of Pylos in 2015.
The remarkably undisturbed and intact grave revealed not only the well-preserved remains of what is believed to have been a powerful Mycenaean warrior or priest buried around 1500 B.C., but also an incredible trove of burial riches that serve as a time capsule into the origins of Greek civilization.
But the tomb didn't readily reveal its secrets. It took conservation experts more than a year to clean the limestone-encrusted seal, say dig leaders Shari Stocker, a senior research associate in UC's Department of Classics, and Jack Davis, the university's Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek archaeology and department head.

As the intricate details of the seal's design emerged, the researchers were shocked to discover they had unearthed no less than a masterpiece.

"Looking at the image for the first time was a very moving experience, and it still is. It's brought some people to tears."

Davis and Stocker say the Pylos Combat Agate's craftsmanship and exquisite detail make it the finest discovered work of glyptic art produced in the Aegean Bronze Age.

"What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn't find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later. It's a spectacular find."

Even more extraordinary, the husband-and-wife team point out, is that the meticulously carved combat scene was painstakingly etched on a piece of hard stone measuring just 3.6 centimeters, or just over 1.4 inches, in length. Indeed, many of the seal's details, such as the intricate weaponry ornamentation and jewelry decoration, become clear only when viewed with a powerful camera lens and photomicroscopy.   

"Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big. They're incomprehensibly small."

The miniature masterpiece portrays a victorious warrior who, having already vanquished one unfortunate opponent sprawled at his feet, now turns his attention to another much more formidable foe, plunging his sword into the shielded man's exposed neck in what is sure to be a final and fatal blow.

It's a scene that conjures the sweeping and epic battles, larger-than-life heroes and grand adventures of Homer's "The Iliad," the epic Greek poem that immortalized a mythological decade-long war between the Trojan and Mycenaean kingdoms. While the researchers can't say that the image was intended to reflect a Homeric epic, the scene undoubtedly reflects a legend that was well known to Minoans and Mycenaeans, says Stocker.

"It would have been a valuable and prized possession, which certainly is representative of the Griffin Warrior's role in Mycenaean society. I think he would have certainly identified himself with the hero depicted on the seal."

Though the seal and other burial riches found within the tomb suggest the Griffin Warrior held an esteemed position in Mycenaean society, that so many of the artifacts are Minoan-made raises intriguing questions about his culture.

Scholarly consensus has long theorized that mainlander Mycenaeans simply imported or robbed such riches from the affluent Minoan civilization on the large island of Crete, southeast of Pylos. Although the Minoans were culturally dominant to the Hellenic mainlanders, the civilization fell to the Mycenaeans around 1500-1400 B.C. -- roughly the same time period in which the Griffin Warrior died.

In a series of presentations and a paper published last year, Davis and Stocker revealed that the discovery of four gold signet rings bearing highly detailed Minoan iconography, along with other Minoan-made riches found within the tomb, indicates a far greater and complex cultural interchange took place between the Mycenaeans and Minoans.

But the skill and sophistication of the Pylos Combat Agate is unparalleled by anything uncovered before from the Minoan-Mycenaean world, say the researchers. And that raises a bigger question: How does this change our understanding of Hellenic art in the Bronze Age? According to Davis:

"It seems that the Minoans were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing. It shows that their ability and interest in representational art, particularly movement and human anatomy, is beyond what it was imagined to be. Combined with the stylized features, that itself is just extraordinary."

The revelation, he and Stocker say, prompts a reconsideration of the evolution and development of Hellenic art.  Stocker:

"This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed."

Stocker and Davis will present findings from the Pylos Combat Agate in a paper to be published later this month in the journal Hesperia. Meanwhile, work continues in unlocking the full mysteries of the Griffin Warrior's tomb. Davis and Stocker, along with other UC staff specialists and students, have altogether catalogued more than 3,000 burial objects discovered in the grave, some of which are still in the process of being cleaned and preserved. David:

"There will be many more surprises to come, for sure."

For more pictures and a sketch, go here.
Today is the cremation of my girlfriend's grandmother, who in life was so kind as to adopt me as a grandchild in my own right. I loved her very much and she will be greatly missed. It's a sad day, and I am fortunate I get to spend it in the company of family.

I don't usually put the words of a Roman on this blog, but I wanted to today, because it's a passage I love and which has been on my mind a lot throughout this process.

Titus Lucretius Carus (99 BC – 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the didactic philosophical poem "De rerum natura" about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things.

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that what he called "pleasure" was the greatest good, but that the way to attain such pleasure was to live modestly, to gain knowledge of the workings of the world, and to limit one's desires. From "De rerum natura":

Finally, what great and vile desire for life compels us
To quake so much amidst doubts and dangers?
Mortals have an absolute end to our lives:
Death cannot be evaded—we must leave.
Nevertheless, we move again and still persist—
No new pleasure is procured by living;
But while what we desire is absent, that seems to overcome
All other things; but later, when we have gained it, we want something else—
An endless thirst for life grips us as we gasp for it.
It remains unclear what fortune life will offer,
What chance may bring us and what end awaits.
But by extending life we do not subtract a moment
Of time from death nor can we shorten it
So that we may somehow have less time after our ends.
Therefore, you may continue as living as many generations as you want,
But that everlasting death will wait for you still,
And he will be there for no less a long time, the man who
Has found the end of life with today’s light, than the man who died
Many months and many years before.
[3.1076-1094]
A vast collection of ancient coins from far-flung locations across the globe, including Syria and China, has been discovered tucked away in a drawer at a castle in Britain. The unique set, comprising 186 coins in total, spans twenty-five centuries of history, the National Trust (NT), custodians of Scotney Castle said Saturday as the collection went on show to the public for the first time.


The coin collection reaches as far back as Archaic Hellas, with a seventh century B.C. piece. This silver token is one of the earliest struck in Europe, and comes from the tiny island of Aegina. It features a clear depiction of a sea turtle, a creature sacred to Aphrodite. National Trust archaeologist Nathalie Cohen said:

"We know that Edward and Edwy Hussey had a great interest in collecting, but this considerable cache of fascinating coins shows just how much their interest grew into a collection of exceptional importance. What is a mystery though is why a collection of this caliber ended up at the back of a drawer."

The bulk of the collection is made up of Roman coins, ranging from the late second century BC to the late fourth century AD. The NT said it was possible that the Husseys, like many collectors, were trying to gather a "complete set" of Roman rulers. Despite the difficulty of this -- Roman succession was complex and many coins of the shorter reigns very rare -- they were close to achieving it. Experts from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) have been consulted by the National Trust and consider eighteen of the coins to be "rare" examples. MOLA's Julian Bowsher said:

"It was a delight, as a coins specialist, to examine such a significant and diverse collection. A particular highlight was seeing Roman coins that rarely appear in Britain, such as those of the 3rd century emperors Balbinus, Pupienus and Aemilian, none of whom ruled for more than a year."

The records also give insight into the purchase value of the collection in the nineteenth century. In Edward's diary from 1823, the "Accounts" section lists him purchasing "Coins" priced from 4 shillings to 7 shillings and 6 pence (0.26 U.S. cents to 0.49 U.S. cents respectively)

The NT said the coins were found by volunteers at the castle as they searched for photographs in a study drawer. Research into family diaries in the archive suggests the coins were amassed during the nineteenth century by avid collector Edward Hussey III and his son Edwy, who lived at the castle. Scotney Castle was the Lamberhurst home of the Hussey family for 200 years before it was left to the trust. The NT opened it to the public in 2007.




Henry John Johnson (10 April 1826 - 31 December 1884) was an English landscape and water colour painter. Johnson travelled in southern Europe, northern Africa and Asia Minor. He painted oil - and watercolour pictures of the ruins of Sardis, the Acropolis in Athens, and the Temple of Athena in Aegina), which I think are quite stunning, but judge for yourself!


Temple of Aphaea in Aegina, Greece

The Acropolis of Athens

Ruins at Hierapolis

Sounion
I'm sorry everyone, this week is still a very rough week for me due to family circumstances. Yesterday I posted part of a lecture by Elizabeth Vandiver. Let me share the rest of the lecture with you today. This is the full lecture, in parts, on auto play. Enjoy!


In this video, Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver, a Professor of Classics from University of Maryland, College Park, introduces the topic of Classical Mythology and tries to define its the words "classical", "mythology", and "myth", a background of some myths, as well as briefly touching on the broader cultural implications of these myths.
"There is this video on youtube about a woman named Elizabeth Vandiver, who is a professor in mythology and she says, that the gods could care less about us humans, and what they truly want from us is sacrifices. Now, I wanted to know what you thought about this lecture (if you have the time to see it, it's about half an hour long and covers subjects such as Pandora and Prometheus) because I feel like, whenever I pray my prayers goes unheard, and this professor may have a point, even if it's moot. She's really convincing, because she knows her stuff, and that's why I'm pondering whether she's right or if this is just the view of someone outside Hellenismos. So if you have the time to see this, I would love to hear your response because you are a strong believer and you might just convince me otherwise."


In Hellenic mythology, when our pre-human ancestors no longer gave the Gods sacrifice, Zeus wiped them all off the face of the planet with a huge flood and started over. In the myth of Baukis and Philemon, every villager who had turned the disguised Gods Zeus and Hermes away were drowned by another flood. This, however, has to do with respect and the just order of things--which is wholly Zeus's domain.

I agree with Vandiver when she says that humans are useful to the Gods and that's basically the only reason They keep us around, but she doesn't go into the very important concept of kharis. Hellenic animal sacrifice was done for a multitude of reasons. It was an act of devotion, an act to establish hierarchy--the Theoi are higher than mankind, but mankind is higher than animals, who are equal to each other--a social bonding affair, a nutritious necessity and tradition. First and foremost, sacrifice of any kind was given out of piety, out of a desire to please or appease the Theoi. Any sacrifice establishes kharis.

When we, in Hellenismos, petition the Gods for aid, we always do so with an offering. This offering can be incense, a libation, a food offering or anything else. It must be something tangible. Good thoughts and intentions don't count. This offering is given freely, joyfully, with pleasure, out of respect and love for the Gods. We ask what we feel we need--sometimes that's a new job, sometimes just a vague sentiment like honor and prosperity to the household--and never expect to be granted this request. Petitions aren't bribery. We give to the Gods and should They feel inclined to grand us our request, we thank Them by offering to them again, to which the Gods might respond, to which we will sacrifice, and so on. This circular practice of voluntary giving is called kharis. As long as we show respect and establish kharis, we are useful to the Gods. Disrespect the Gods and you become expendable.

We tend to resist this view in modern times. I consider that an especially Christian influence: God should be/is a benevolent entity (Islam and Judaism are less firm on a benevolent God), as well as a sign of the times. The ancient Hellenes, nor any of their contemporaries, believed the Gods to be anything but feared, appeased, and respected. The reason for this is logical: they were hard times to live in. The ancient Hellenes were subject to natural influence much more than we are. When a harvest fails, it doesn't automatically mean famine anymore. When we travel by ship, the odds of dying on it are slim. Not so in ancient Hellas. It were exactly these natural influences that the Gods had (and have) domain over, ergo: the Gods became beings to fear. They still are.

In essence: regular and grandiose worship through sacrifice raises your status with the Gods from an easily squashed nobody to someone who is useful and perhaps worthy of some protection and aid.

Having an almost personal, loving, and safe relationship with the Gods is a modern invention. It came to a rise with the revival of Paganism in the form of Wicca and Witchcraft. It makes absolutely no sense in an Hellenistic context because it goes against the hierarchy: Gods, then humans, then animals. As humans, we tend to reason from ourselves outwards, which basically would make the hierarchy: humans, Gods/animals. That's hubris. That's the opposite of piety. Piety, in large part, is accepting that we, as humans, are not at the top of this chain and that the Gods look at us like we look at animals: cute, but expendable once their purpose is served. It's a hard truth to face, and I get a lot of backlash for putting it out there, but that's the way the ancient Hellenes viewed their Gods, and it's how I view Them as well.
Archaeologists in Greece have uncovered rare jewels, coins and other artefacts while excavating tombs near the ruins of the classical city of Corinth dating to between the fourth and first centuries A.D. The team of experts, working with the Greek Ministry of Culture, made the discoveries in eastern Corinthia, at the site of the ancient village of Tenea, while excavating a burial ground with two distinctive chambers built when Greece was part of the Roman Empire.


The Greek Ministry of Culture said in a statement that the Roman burial monuments appeared to have been built into a preexisting Hellenic substructures from the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. up until the Roman conquest in B.C. 146. Five of the most well-appointed tombs, the experts said, would have belonged to wealthy inhabitants of Roman Greece. Bodies were found alongside elaborate gilded bronze leaves, a golden ring, precious stones and gold and bronze coins from the surrounding region.

Among the other ritualistic items buried with the dead were perfumes, artefacts made of gold, gold foil and elaborately crafted glassware, as well as items of pottery. Also within the dig site the archaeologists recovered items from a series of different burial plots. Fourteen graves, organized in circles, as was Roman convention, yielded a number of gold and silver coins, vases and a series of lamps, the most striking of which bore depictions of the Roman Goddess Venus and two cupids.

Of particular interest to the excavation team, led by Elena Korka, were the older Hellenic parts of the structures. One side of the Roman burial monument was built above an typical rectangular Hellenistic basement made of limestone and then coated in a thick layer of mortar.

In other areas they found evidence of graves from the earlier Hellenic period, pottery including a figurine in the shape of a dove and other ritual items such as perfume. It also appeared some of the lower vaults in the buildings would have been associated with other Greco-Roman rituals.
The period of Roman rule in Hallas began following the destruction of Corinth, when the Roman Empire annexed the Hellenic heartlands and crushed the Peloponnesians, the Hellenic peoples living in the southern part of the country.

The ancient Hellenes were able to maintain relative autonomy from their Roman rulers during the early period of empire with sophisticated Hellenic culture, its philosophy and literature having a profound influence on Rome’s educated elite.
Okay, okay, way too late for this, but it isn't like we celebrate Halloween anyway. Consider it a nudge toward craftiness, all right? The Getty Museum has put out five stencil designs -- three ancient pottery forms (amphora, olpe, and kylix), as well as an ancient Greek athlete and a Cycladic figurine.


My girlfriend's grandmother has passed away. It was an emotional affair and the days have been rough but filled with love. I need some rest, and I need to give praise to Hermes Psychopompos. Psychopompos (ψυχοπομπός) literally means the "guide of souls". Psycholompoi escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to provide safe passage. In Hellenic mythology, Hermes and Hekate are both Psycholompoi.


"Hermes Kyllenios (of Mt Kyllene) began to summon the suitors' ghosts [at dawn's first light]; he held in his hand the golden rod that he uses to lull men's eyes asleep when he so wills, or again to wake others from their slumber; with this he roused them and led them on, and they followed him, thinly gibbering. As in a recess of some eerie cave a chain of bats may be hanging downwards from the rock, but one of them drops from the clinging cluster and then all the rest flit squeaking round, so did these ghosts travel on together squeaking, while easeful Hermes led them down through the ways of dankness. They passed the streams of Okeanos, the White Rock (leukas petre), the Gates of the Sun (pylai helion) and the Land of Dreams (demos oneiron), and soon they came to the Field of Asphodel (leimon asphodelon) where the souls (psykhai), the phantoms of the dead (eidola) have their habitation . . .

Hermes the Radiant One (Argeiphontes) drew near [to the gathering of the ghosts of heroes], leading down the souls of the suitors who had fallen by Odysseus' hand. Amazed to see this, the two heroes [Akhilleus and Agamemnon] moved straight towards them [and queried the newly arrived shades]."
-- Homeros, Odysseia 24. 1 & 99

"Zeus himself . . . commanded that glorious Hermes . . . only should be the appointed messenger to Haides, who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize [perhaps meaning that, in return, Haides and Persephone send grass up from the earth for the grazing of herds]."
-- Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes

"It is said that after death, the tutelary genius (daimon) of each person, to whom he had been allotted in life, leads him to a place where the dead are gathered together [i.e. the daimon guide is Plato's equivalent of Hermes, Guide of the Dead]; then they are judged [i.e. by the Judges of the Dead] and depart to the other world with the guide whose task it is to conduct thither those who come from this world [i.e. the spirit Iakkhos]; and when they have there received their due and remained through the time appointed, another guide [probably Dionysos] brings them back after many long periods of time [i.e. they are reincarnated].

And the journey is not as Telephos says in the play of Aiskhylos; for he says a simple path leads to Haides (the lower world), but I think the path is neither simple nor single, for if it were, there would be no need of guides, since no one could miss the way to any place if there were only one road. But really there seem to be many forks of the road and many windings; this I infer from the rites and ceremonies practiced here on earth [i.e. the Mystery cults]. Now the orderly and wise soul follows its guide and understands its circumstances; but the soul that is desirous of the body, as I said before, flits about it, and in the visible world for a long time [i.e. as a haunting ghost], and after much resistance and many sufferings is led away with violence and with difficulty by its appointed genius (daimon)." [N.B. "led away with violence" cf. the story of the runaway ghost Sisyphos and Hermes.]
-- Plato, Phaedo 107c

"Now when the dead have come to the place where each is led by his genius (daimon) [i.e. by Plato's equivalent of Hermes, Guide of the Dead], first they are judged and sentenced [i.e. by the Judges of the Dead], as they have lived well and piously, or not. And those who are found to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the Akheron and, embarking upon vessels provided for them [i.e. the equivalent of Kharon's skiff], arrive in them at the lake; there they dwell and are purified [i.e. by the equivalent of the Erinyes], and if they have done any wrong they are absolved by paying the penalty for their wrong doings, and for their good deeds they receive rewards, each according to his merits."
-- Plato, Phaedo 112e

"Hermes, I call, whom fate decrees to dwell near to Kokytos, the famed stream of Haides, and in necessity's (ananke) dread path, whose bourn to none that reach it ever permits return. O Bakkheios Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine, and of celestial Aphrodite, Paphian queen, dark-eyelashed Goddess, of a lovely mien: who constant wanderest through the sacred seats where Haides' dread empress, Persephone, retreats; to wretched souls the leader of the way, when fate decrees, to regions void of day. Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumberous rest the weary eye; for Persephone, through Tartaros dark and wide, gave thee for ever flowing souls to guide. Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend, and grant thy mystics' works a happy end."
-- Orphic Hymn 57 to Khthonian Hermes
The months of late fall and early winter are relatively light on the festival agenda--Maimakterion, the month we are in now, wasn't even on the sacrificial calendar of Erkhia, for example. This could have at least three reasons: It's getting cold and wet out and the ancient Hellenes held their rituals outdoors, most of the harvesting was done so food was assured or there was nothing that could be done to decrease the shortage, and with the fall of winter, warfare came to a halt; the seas were too rough to go on campaigns and it would soon be too cold to exist comfortably in a war camp. Seeing as these two latter two reasons were the major ones to have festivals, these months are quiet ones. Elaion will host a PAT ritual for the Pompaia November 9, at the usual 10 AM EST.


Let start with something obvious we do not know about the Pompaia: the actual date of the festival. Parke (in 'Festivals of the Athenians', page 96) states that the Pompaia in honor of Zeus Meilichios was held during the last third of Maimakterion which would be on or after 20 Maimakterion. Parke cites the treatise on the Pompaia by Polemon of Ilion so we're fairly confident he is correct on the date.

What we do know is that the Pompaia was not originally celebrated by the people of Athens, but solely by its priests. Potentially, it was only celebrated by the priests of Zeus. It was linked to purification. It was one of the festivals that, by Classical times, had already lost much of its original meaning, but which was repeated year after year because it had always been repeated year after year--and in general these had been good years. Not having the rite on the calendar could have devastating effects, so it was performed.

The Pompaia followed the Maimakteria during which a sheep was most likely sacrificed and the fleece collected and cleaned. During the Pompaia a second procession took place with the fleece. The fleece--the 'Diòs Koidion', as it was called--was said to have purifying and other magical qualities that would rub off on he who interacted with it, if he stood on it with his left foot. In fact, a sheep skin was used in the Eleusinian Mysteries in this fashion to absolve those who had a lot of guilt to carry around--or a lot of grief. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter mentions her sitting down in a chair covered by a fleece, and there is also artwork of initiates shrouded in a fleece.

The sheep skin was most likely not connected to Zeus at the start of the practice; as we have seen, it had much stronger ties to other deities. The Pompaia rite simply called for a sheep skin. The connection with Zeus most likely happened through assimilation: the rite fell in a month where people prepared for winter and where the weather got harsher. As such, Zeus had a major impact on the inhabitants of Athens; he controls the weather after all. The sheep from which the skin was used became sacrificed to Him as an appeasement, and then the ritually charged skin made its way through the city.

In the same fashion, the kērukeion (κηρύκειον)--better known as the caduceus--the snake-entwined staff that was the symbol of Hermes, was carried through the city. Most likely Hermes was not part of the actual rite; the kērukeion, like the Diòs Koidion, was a powerful symbol which was used to offer protection and purification to the city now winter was upon them. After all, the kērukeion was said to ward off all evil--and the cold, dark, days of winter most certainly had those. Hermes was added through the procession solely by association, but it is doubtful that He also received an animal sacrifice.

The Pompaia--meaning 'to exorcise'--was not popular, and in general these minor festivals were performed by the priests, for the city, without its inhabitants taking part. A small group of priests most likely walked the city with the objects and those who came upon the group would have said their prayers, spoke their wishes, and paid their respects. Yet, they were not included in the ceremony. This rite fell to the priests, so they could ask the Gods to continue placing their blanket of protection over the city.

As we have no ancient priests of Zeus hanging around, we take this responsibility upon ourselves instead. Will you join us on November 9, at 10 AM EST? You can join the community here and download the ritual here.
I'm sorry, everyone. Yesterday, we got the very sad news that my better half's grandmother--who has been as much of a grandmother to me--who was already ill has taken a turn for the worst and is not expected to live for much longer. We've been at her bedside and I'm emotionally not capable of putting something more together than these few words. Regular scheduling will resume tomorrow. For today, have this video of the 2018 Olympics ceremony. It might not be in any way authentic, but the scenery and dresses are lovely.

Apologies, everyone. I have no time at all to put something together, so I'm calling in some help from a graphic artist. They're pretty, aren't they?












The Maimakteria is one of those festivals not a lot has survived about. We know it was in honor of Zeus Maimaktes, the Blustering, and that it was connected to the weather and protection of crops. Protecting our crops is a desire we have to this day so we will celebrate the Maimakteria, regardless. Will you join us on November 5th, at the usual 10 am EDT?


The months of late fall and early winter are relatively light on the festival agenda. This could have at least three reasons: It's getting cold and wet out and the ancient Hellenes held their rituals outdoors, most of the harvesting was done so food was assured or there was nothing that could be done to decrease the shortage, and with the fall of winter, warfare came to a halt; the seas were too rough to go on campaigns and it would soon be too cold to exist comfortably in a war camp. Seeing as these two latter two reasons were the major ones to have festivals, these months are quiet ones. In the Athenian calendar, only two festivals are attested to take place this month: the Maimakteria and the Pompaia.

Most likely, the Maimakteria was connected to the Pompaia, which took place at a later date in the month. I say 'a later date' because we are not sure of the dating. Parke (in 'Festivals of the Athenians', page 96) states that the Pompaia in honor of Zeus Meilichios was held during the last third of Maimakterion which would be on or after 20 Maimakterion. Parke cites the treatise on the Pompaia by Polemon of Ilion so we're fairly confident he is correct on the date. He also states that the Maimakteria took place 'mid-month'. The sixteenth is as viable a date as any other around this time.

The Pompaia was linked to purification. During this rite a white sheep's fleece--the 'Diòs Koidion', as it was called--was placed on the ground and the priests who took part in the rite stood on it with their left foot to be purified and blessed. We believe the Maimakteria was when this sheep was sacrificed.

If the rite followed the standard practice of Hellenic ritual, the sheep was led to the altar--most likely that of Zeus--in procession and then sacrificed. The animal was skinned and the fleece cleaned. The Diòs Koidion was said to have purifying and other magical qualities that would rub off on he who interacted with it, if he stood on it with his left foot.

The sheep skin was most likely not connected to Zeus at the start of the practice. The connection with Zeus most likely happened through assimilation: the rite fell in a month where people prepared for winter and where the weather got harsher. As such, Zeus had a major impact on the inhabitants of Athens; he controls the weather after all. The sheep from which the skin was used became sacrificed to Him as an appeasement, and then the ritually charged skin made its way through the city.

We hope you will join us for the Maimakteria on November 5. You can download the ritual here and join the community for the event here.
The ancient Hellenes were warriors as well as philosophers and scholars. Territory was to be claimed and defended, then often lost and reclaimed. Many battles were immortalized with festivals that carried on sometimes even hundreds of years after the actual battle. We all know war is not to be glamorized--it's literally a lethal activity. The ancient Hellenes did everything in their power not to die, and a large part of those measures was trying to have the tightest tactics, the largest army...and perhaps most of all, to have the best weapons. I'd like to share some of those today.



Dory (δόρυ)

The dory was the primary weapon of the ancient Hellenes. It was a spear about 3 meters in length consisting of a wood shaft with an iron tip. It was wielded single-handedly so the user could hold a shield in the other hand. The dory enabled the hoplite (soldier) to keep an enemy at a distance and was effective in phalanx (shield-wall) formation, allowing the first two lines to attack.



Xiphos

The primary weapon of ancient Hellenes was the dory, but if it broke they used a short single hand sword known as a Xiphos. The Xiphos had a double-edged blade that rarely measured longer than 20 inches which made it useful in close range combat. It was more martially versatile than the other prominent sword, the single edged Kopis.


Kopis - Ancient Greek SwordKopis (κοπίς)

The Kopis was a one-handed, single-edged sword that measured around 36 inches with the blade curving forward and widening near the tip. It was longer than the Xiphos, and thus more useful to the cavalry.


Makhaira (μάχαιρα)

Homeros mentions the makhaira, but as a domestic knife of no great size. In period texts the term has a variety of meanings, and can refer to virtually any knife or sword, even a surgeon's scalpel, but in a martial context it frequently refers to a type of one-edged sword; a sword designed primarily to cut rather than thrust. Some modern scholars distinguish the makhaira from the kopis (an ancient term of similar meaning) based on whether the blade is forward curved (kopis), or not (makhaira). 


Sarissa (σάρισα)

Introduced by Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, Sarissa was a 4 to 7 meters long spear which was used instead of the dory. It was made of tough cornel wood and weighed around 5 kilograms. The sarissa was considerably longer than its predecessor and this made it very effective in the Macedonian phalanx which was considered invulnerable from the front and could be only defeated if the formation was broken. Invention of Sarissa greatly helped Philip II and his son Alexander the Great in their conquests.